Monday, July 13, 2015

These Classes Are so Safe!

This morning I got up at 7 AM, feeling well rested and had enough sleep from last night. I went to the bathroom at the end of the hall to take a shower and came back into my dorm to make sure I was not forgetting anything for class since it was instantly followed by breakfast. At 7:55 AM, my proctor group and I started walking together to go down to the Commons and have breakfast. I got eggs, bacon, turkey sausage (which was served for the first time on the campus), tangerines, and orange juice. It is one of the girls' birthday today, Mary Helen, so I wanted to make an effort to making it as special as possible by starting off the "Happy Birthday" song, and soon enough everyone in the cafeteria was singing along (or at least I had hoped so). 
I enjoyed looking at this creative design of the commons
center, where we usually go to eat.

After breakfast had ended, we walked outside to find the person holding up the sign that said "Medicine, Health, and Society". The guy who was holding our sign is Zach, the teacher's assistant. Once he finished taking role, he led us over to the actual classroom, where we met our professor, Ms. Talley, who was sitting in a wheelchair. Everyone got seated and Ms. Talley had us quickly write a few sentences on our first impression of her. I did not think much about her disability when I first walked into the room, I thought of it as totally normal because one of my close friends is immobilized too and sometimes uses his wheelchair. I did not expect for her to be in one, but my standards for her class was not set any lower. 

Ms. Talley got out of the wheelchair and started walking around. She is actually not immobilized and just wanted everyone to reflect on their judgement, and why we were so quick to judge. She is also having at everybody try out being in a wheelchair for 24 hours to gain a better understanding and have a new perspective, like how we should be viewing this class. Everyone went around the room sharing their opinions and she told us that it was all more positive than all of her other years teaching at VSA (this is her 5th year). Our next lesson was making a concept map around the idea of health. We turned in the papers and will be doing it again for the same topic, at the end of the course. This was for her to reflect on how she taught and for us as students to reflect on the way we have thought of health from before. She had us do a quick activity with a partner (the person sitting next to us) and had us interview each other with a given set of questions. My partner's name is Michael, he is 17, and will be an incoming senior. This is also his first year at VSA, he is from Wheaton, Illinois, has one older brother, is in choir, and loves to read and go to concerts in his free time. He wants to go to medical school eventually sometime in the near future, but he is hoping that this class will help re-enforce his desire to be in the health field. One fun fact is that he is banned from the premises of Panera (the store) because on his last day working there, it takes at least 30 minutes to walk all the way to work, so when he showed up, his co-worker just assumed that he was not going to show up and basically made him walk to his workplace for nothing. Michael got very upset, quit his job, and got banned. Everyone went around the room introducing their partners, and when it got to Ms. Talley and Zach, the class found out that he can recite the alphabet backwards in the same amount of time in the Guinness World Records (which is 2.21 seconds).

Then, we got into the real lecture on the four different parts of anthropology (biological, linguistics, archaeology, and cultural), since the professor is an anthropologist after all. We went really far into detail on archaeology, with an example of starting out with layers at a time, from the top. At the top of the ground, our professor brought up "Garbology"which is what you can figure out about a person based on what kind of trash that they throw out. For example, you can tell someone's health status based off of the medications that you can find in the trash. In some cases, people throw out all of their personal information all of the time, like the labels with the patient's name from a prescription bottle, and how once people have put out their trash on the street for the dump truck to pick it up, it is then made public. The lecture turned to learning some new terms, such as, explanatory models, when those from different cultural backgrounds often have very different ways of understanding illness, its consequences, and how best to treat it. 

There was a lunch break in between the two sessions of class, so Ms. Talley wanted to leave us off on a note thinking about the trash that we throw away, whether something is still valuable or not. I never gave my trash much thought since I just throw away wrappers that I do not need to use. At lunch, we were free to sit with whoever we wished to sit with, so Hummd, Arnold, and I went to save a table together for the cohort  and saved a seat for Gwennie. It was really nice to see them again because I am in a totally whole different house than the rest and are on different floors. We caught up with each other on what our classes, proctor groups, roommates, and personal experience were like. The short amount of time that we had to spend with each other was really different from seeing them everyday for the whole day during our travel dates, so I really appreciated more of the time that we had rejoiced. 

The three of us in M.H.S. (Medicine, Health, and Society) went out to the patio to find Zach so that he could lead us back to the classroom. The talk moved onto cultural differences, like how you might put up a number 3 on your hand, or the "okay" sign, means okay, or number 3 in English, but in another place, like Brazil, it is an outrageously harmful insult to somebody else. Zach brought up the time when his friends from London were always saying that this one restaurant where they ate at was so safe! Zach knew it was safe because eating is not really dangerous, but then found out that in London, safe is the equivalent of cool! The next few slides were about contrasting subjects, like biomedicine (scientific) and ethnomedicine (traditional) or disease (something is defined medically) and illness (something that is defined by the person experiencing it). The professor had given us our own copy of "The Illness Narratives" to start reading during class and study hall (from chapters 1 and 2, to 7, 10, and 15). We  will soon be receiving our copy of another book this week. We were told that the first week is the hardest (because we still have to get accustomed to everything on campus), but afterwards will be much easier. 
Part of my notes from the class and what the text looks like.

After study hall was done, I was only reaching around at least half of the second chapter. The book is really dense and unfolds into even more interesting stories and experiences, so I am looking forward to finishing up the rest of the necessary chapters. Zach led everyone back to Hank Ingram hall for us to head back to our dorms and set our stuff down, then go back to the patio where we would meet our Arete class. I had fencing so I was looking for the proctor/ resident advisor that was holding the sign that read "Fencing". 

I had never fenced before and had only seen part of it in TV shows. Fencing has three different types of weapons, which means three different types of armor. The beginner's one is called the foil which requires the armor of the upper body and crotch area. Another one is the saber, which is sword-like and can be used to hit sideways, this weapon is only used with the armor that covers the whole upper body. The last but not least, is called the epee, and has a special guard that is larger than the other two weapons and requires a full body suit. Our instructor started out with showing and telling us about each weapon, armor, and then played a fencing 101 tutorial video from his laptop. His friend Race, is currently number 1 in the whole world (as of last week) in fencing, and he was in the video that taught us how to en garde (ready position), advance or retreat, and lunge correctly. After watching the whole video and another on Race being a prodigy, the instructor had the class make 4 lines with around 3-4 people in each line, spread out to be ready to incorporate what we had learned from the videos. Soon enough, we were having a fencing tournament, but with gloves as our swords (all the hands-on is tomorrow). In my matches, I beat at least 3 other people, and felt myself bringing in some of the badminton footwork that I had learned over the past few years, so the movement was very familiar to me. Unfortunately, I did not make it to the finals to go against our teacher, but it was really a fun experience overall, and I did not know that it was such a popular sport. 

Free time was after our Arete class, but by the time that we were all dismissed, I had only 20-30 minutes left until meeting back with my proctor group to walk together to the commons again. At dinner, we were free to eat with whoever we wanted to, so I decided to have my newly made friends sit with the cohort as well as all of their new friends, and it felt like a big family dinner. I even met someone else who did not know anyone at our table, but was invited to sit at our table anyway. I had a one-on-one talk with him throughout the rest of dinner and I think his name is Griffin, from Seattle. We were talking for a while then some of his other friends wanted to see him, so I was back with Arnold, and a few of our other floor mates. There was another meeting outside on the patio with all of the proctor groups to get ready for the 2 hour long scavenger hunt! The hunt consisted of riddles, tasks, and different things that we had to walk all over campus for to earn points for our houses (again, A house is the best house). 

Some of the tasks required the whole group to take a picture with something specific, like a bridge, flag, school logo, or gazing at the sky from the rooftop of a parking garage. It may have took two hours long, but my group and I made it through and completed all of the tasks above (except the bridge because of limitation on time).
The walk back to Hank Ingram was very exhausting, but worth it in the end because I was really amazed (still) when I saw the fireflies. They literally had a path lit up all the way back (there were so many of them). There was another house meeting for tonight and towards the end of it, I was able to introduce a new cheer for our awesome A house! It is really simple to learn and we practiced it as a whole together, and I am really glad that people are enjoying it. The whole experience with engaging in classes and other people for me has personally grew, compared to the beginning of my junior year. I can feel myself stepping out of my comfort zone by taking crazy Arete classes like fencing and I really am learning more about each aspect of my classes as well as myself.

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